NEW YORK — Interceptions. Dropped passes. Flared tempers.
It all made for one ugly night for the New York Jets.
And, one in which they still could have walked out of New England with a win.
“Obviously,” coach Rex Ryan said Friday, “there’s some frustration in the fact that we didn’t pull it out.”
They certainly had their chances in a 13-10 loss Thursday night in which Tom Brady and his wide receivers were not in sync and the Jets’ defense was impressive for the second straight game. But New York had at least six dropped passes in slick conditions, and rookie Geno Smith also threw three fourth-quarter interceptions.
There was also a sideline skirmish at the end of the night that put a fitting end to a messy game.
“We had some opportunities there, clearly,” Ryan said during a conference call. “You have to give New England credit because they made enough plays at the end of the game to win it and were able to turn the ball over, and that was obviously critical.”
The numbers are what makes Ryan and the rest of the Jets shake their heads, and the fact the Patriots were without key playmakers Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski and Shane Vereen. Brady was just 19 of 39 for 185 yards and a touchdown, a 48.7 completion percentage that was his lowest since 2009. The Patriots quarterback was visibly frustrated by the Jets, and yelled at his receivers.
New England also went just 4 for 19 on third down and punted 11 times.
“I think our defense played extremely well,” Ryan said. “Anytime you can force New England to punt more than they had first downs, I think, even though I understand most of the credit is going elsewhere, I think some of the credit should be going to our team.”
The defense was clearly the bright spot of the game for the Jets, who didn’t allow a point to the Patriots in the second half. New York allowed only three points to Tampa Bay in the second half of last Sunday’s 18-17 win.
“Is anybody surprised we have a great defense?” said Ryan, who predicted in the preseason that his team would finish ranked in the top 5 in the league. “I don’t think that surprises anybody. ... By the end of the year, this team, it could be pretty salty on defense.”
That Smith struggled on the road, in New England, in particular, was also not a stunner. But the way things fell apart in the final quarter could be cause for some concern.
After going three quarters without a critical mistake, Smith had the Jets in position to try for a tying field goal. But he tried to force a pass to Santonio Holmes on third down that he threw across his body and was intercepted by Aqib Talib. Alfonzo Dennard picked off Smith later in the quarter on a bad throw intended for Clyde Gates.
Worst of all was a throw in the final minute to Stephen Hill that Talib stepped in front of to seal the win for the Patriots.
That play led to Nick Mangold’s dive at Talib’s legs near the sideline that set off the skirmish. Ryan insisted it wasn’t intentional, but Mangold and fellow offensive linemen Willie Colon and D’Brickashaw Ferguson — both ejected — could face league discipline.
It appeared Ferguson took a swing at Patriots center Ryan Wendall, and Colon pushed away the hands of back judge Todd Prukop after Prukop made contact with the Jets offensive lineman. The contact with the official doesn’t carry an automatic suspension.
Smith shouldered the blame for the loss, and the mistakes by the offense.
“Through it, he was still poised,” Ryan said. “It wasn’t like he was rattled. I think he was confident. He threw some jump balls at the end when you’re trying to force some issues, but you’re trying to make some plays.
“The young man, for the most part, he delivered some nice passes. We’ve just got to catch them.”
That’s an area where Smith wasn’t at fault. Ryan wasn’t sure exactly how many drops there were by Jets receivers — “It was way too many,” he said — but there were at least six, including three by Gates.
“We know we have to catch the ball better,” Ryan said. “We’ve emphasized it all camp. I’m confident we’ll get it fixed.
“We have to get it fixed.”
There was also the fumble by Hill that turned a big gain into a change of possession — and soon after, a field goal in the first half for the Patriots.
“You turn it over four times against New England,” Ryan said, “I just don’t think you have a chance.”
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org
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